Formed in 1978
The Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (CCRCA) was first formed in 1978, in response to a 15 year, federal-provincial, $700 million study to determine the feasibility of disposing of high level nuclear waste in plutonic rock. Two areas in Renfrew County were under consideration, one near the village of Wilno and the other near White Lake. In these early days, the group was called Renfrew County Citizens for Nuclear Responsibility (RCCNR) and was a member the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR), with which we still work closely. Several briefs were prepared and submitted by early founding member Tony Cowan and colleagues.
The Seaborne Panel Review
In the 1990’s CCRCA participated in the Seaborne panel review of the safety and acceptability of geological disposal of high level nuclear waste. Our group prepared and presented several briefs for the panel, which after 10 years of review, concluded that “As it now stands, the AECL concept for deep geological disposal has not been demonstrated to have broad public support and does not have the required level of acceptability to be adopted as Canada’s approach for managing nuclear waste.”
Deep River Disposal Project
Also in the 1990’s, CCRCA was very involved in opposing the Deep River Disposal Project, a proposal to create a giant cavern on AECL property, beside the Ottawa River, for radioactive wastes from the Port Hope area. Technical studies at the time showed that the bedrock was highly fractured and that groundwater moved rapidly through the proposed site and into the river. Still it was a long, hard fight, eventually involving dozens of municipalities on both sides of the Ottawa River and both Pontiac MRC and Renfrew County Council. The project was finally dropped, and provisions made for monitored storage of the wastes closer to Port Hope.
Ongoing efforts aimed at Chalk River Labs cleanup
For more than 20 years, CCRCA has intervened at all licensing hearings on Chalk River Laboratories held by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (and prior to the year 2000, by the Atomic Energy Control Board). Our interventions have highlighted pollution issues such as the plumes from the leaking fuel bays and waste management areas and major safety concerns such as the high level liquid wastes in the “Fissile Solution Storage Tank. As appropriate, we have expressed support for new facilities that have reduced pollution levels (such as the liquid waste treatment centre) and have placed wastes in more secure above-ground storage. We have consistently called for greater transparency and openness in monitoring and reporting on the state of the CRL environment, and we believe that our efforts helped persuade government decision-makers to allocate significant resources to clean-up efforts, such as through the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program.
Tritium Pollution in Pembroke
Late in the 1990’s, a CCRCA colleague Irene Koch of Duram Nuclear Awareness, alerted us to problems at the tritium light factory in Pembroke, SRB Technologies. This became a focus of our work for over a decade during which we undertook environmental monitoring for tritium, discovering serious tritium pollution in the area near the company. The first sample we collected made the front page of the Globe and Mail, in a story entitled “The Atomic Rhubarb of Pembroke”. Much of what went on in Pembroke including the Atomic Rhubarb story, is documented on the website of the Tritium Awareness Project. The Pembroke/SRB/tritium pollution debacle illustrates the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s incompetence when it comes to protecting the public from radiation. Through citizen efforts, supported by the Canadian Environmental Law Association, several changes were eventually made to the company’s license, which resulted in tritium emissions being greatly reduced.
Rhubarb (ordinary, not “Atomic”)
The Near Surface Disposal Facility
Recently the spectre of a giant nuclear waste dump beside the Ottawa River has again raised its head. Please read our fact sheet on this, co-produced with the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association: “Ten Things Canadians need to know about the Chalk River Near Surface Disposal Facility”. As it was in the 90’s, it is still a bad idea to site a giant nuclear waste dump on fractured rock, on a major fault line, beside the Ottawa River which provides drinking water for millions of Canadians.
We believe Canada can do much better than this, if there is political will. A world class facility, in stable rock, away from the river could keep radioactive substances out of the environment, boost the local economy and demonstrate to the world that Canada cares about looking after its radioactive wastes properly.